OFF THE WIRE
ABATE of Illinois VSPatrick Quinn Governor of Illinois
Political Rewind: No More Pension Checks for Blagojevich
It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.
October 30, 2011
This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.
Not a good week to be an Illinois governor
This week didn’t hold a lot of good news for Illinois governors, past and present.
The legislature bucked Gov. Pat Quinn on several hot-button issues and moved to prevent former Gov.Rod Blagojevich from receiving his state retirement checks during its first week of a two-week fall veto session.
Illinois Supreme Court: State money cannot be special
The Illinois Supreme Court may have opened the door for Gov. Pat Quinn and state lawmakers to grab hundreds of millions of dollars for the next state budget.
In a 6-to-1 decision Thursday, the high court upheld a 2006 Sangamon County Circuit Court ruling that backed the governor and Legislature’s ability to take money from hundreds of special state funds, a practice commonly referred to as sweeping.
Motorcycle riders sued former Gov. Rod Blagojevich after he ordered that $296,000 be taken from the Cycle Riders Safety Training Fund, or CRSTF. A portion of the fee for an Illinois motorcycle license went into the CRSTF, which the motorcycle education and advocacy group A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education, or ABATE, argued, was only to be spent on motorcycle safety education. The governor that year used the $296,000 to pay general state bills.
“Clearly, the fee charged by the state for motorcycle registration and licensing is state revenue, and therefore the portion of this state revenue which the General Assembly has allocated to the CRSTF is also public money,” wrote Justice Anne Burke in the majority opinion.
Lawmakers move to make sure Blago doesn’t get pension checks
Illinois lawmakers are dead set against Rod Blagojevich getting another dime from Illinois taxpayers.
On Wednesday, the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, Board moved to ensure that the former governor would not collect any of his $65,000-a-year state pension.
The board adopted a rule that will require it to meet and review any application from a person convicted of political corruption during his time working for the state. The board must approve pension benefits before a pension check can be sent. For most Illinois retirees, the checks are sent and then the GARS Board reviews eligibility.
In December, Blagojevich turns 55, age of retirement, and could have taken advantage of a loophole that would have allowed him to apply for pension payments despite his conviction. The law does not define someone as a convicted felon until sentence is imposed. Blagojevich is awaiting sentencing and no date has been set.
The former governor took the first step toward becoming ineligible for a state pension in June, after a federal jury found him guilty on 17 of 20 counts of corruption.
Lawmaker resigns, takes Quinn appointment and pay raise
Another former legislator who earlier this year voted to raise the corporate and personal income taxes in Illinois found a soft landing in Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration.
Quinn named former state Rep. Tom Holbrook, D-Belleville, to the Illinois Pollution Control Board where he’ll pull down a salary topping $117,000.
Holbrook gave up his seat and the intention of seeking re-election just a week after he said he would seek re-election in the Illinois House, a position with a base pay of $67,000.
Quinn forcefully denied that Holbrook’s “yes” vote, when the state House passed the tax hikes by a vote of 60-47, had anything to do with his appointment.
“Absolutely not. I’ve known Tom a long time. He’s been a member of the House Energy and Environment Committee since he arrived 16 or so years ago (in the Legislature). He’s a very solid guy in my opinion, and that’s why I appointed him,” Quinn said.
The vote in January and signature by Quinn raised personal income taxes by 67 percent and corporate income taxes by 47 percent. It’s expected to generated $6.5 billion annually.
Lawmakers see consequences from Madigan budget resolution
Illinois Legislature want to prevent the governor from spending money the state does not have in the bank. But the constitutional separation of powers may keep lawmakers from forcing Gov. Pat Quinn's hand in the next state budget.
House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, earlier this week grabbed headlines and attention statewide, with a proposal that would give the Legislature a role in future contract negotiations with the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, which has 41,000 members, and other unionized public workers, including members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Service Employees International Union.
"We can stand on the sidelines, let those people go off and do what they do, and send us a bill, or we can interject ourselves now and be present through the negotiations so that our position is known and understood," Madigan said Tuesday.
Because Quinn alone has the constitutional power to negotiate and sign union contracts, Madigan's nonbinding resolution could not force the governor to include lawmakers.
But Madigan wields extraordinary power over the budget process, and past nonbinding resolutions have been taken seriously. The speaker introduced a similar resolution last spring. In this case, Madigan set a $33.2 billion cap on the fiscal 2012 budget. Quinn wanted a budget closer to $36 billion. Ultimately, the state’s spending plan came to $33.9 billion. Madigan on Tuesday did not offer specifics on the amount Quinn should authorize in the union contracts; instead, he said lawmakers will come up with a figure in the coming months.
But he said Quinn could not sign another "no-layoff" pledge.
Odds on more gambling improve, still no sure bet
Chances that Illinois will see more gambling could be getting better, as Gov. Pat Quinn enters negotiations with the Legislature.
Quinn is expected to discuss the future of gambling in Illinois with state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon.
The Legislature and Quinn have Thursday and three days in the second week of November before the end of the scheduled veto session to address gambling or it will be shelved until the 2012 spring session.
The move followed a debate over gaming in the Senate Executive Committee earlier Wednesday that Quinn’s office called a “charade.”
“Governor Quinn looks forward to moving past the political games and towards sincere negotiations to reach a legitimate proposal that meets the framework he laid out,” Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for Quinn, said in a written statement.
Quinn laid out his gaming expansion plan a week before the Legislature returned here for its fall veto session.
The governor spent the summer criticizing the measure the Legislature passed but offering no alternative.
The original plan included adding five casinos throughout the state, gaming positions at existing casinos, and video gaming at horse racetracks. Currently the state has 10 casinos.
Quinn said he would agree to five new casinos but not video gaming at horse tracks. He also wanted to ban casino owners from making political contributions.